Wedurday lunchtime, and a restaurant on Hove seafront is being handled to a drum’n ‘bass remix of Althea & Donna’s 1978 reggae hit Uptown High Rating. You may name the quantity it is taking part in at cutlery-rattling if there have been any cutlery within the restaurant to rattle, however there is not. Service is suspended, the tables have been pushed to the facet, and within the middle of the room Norman Cook dinner is educating Jess and Amber, two twentysomething ladies, how one can DJ: headphone on one ear solely so you possibly can hear the monitor you are cueing up whereas listening to the monitor that is presently taking part in with the opposite. It is a process he approaches with big enthusiasm and an admirable lack of pretension – “They make a sort of ‘wow’ sound,” he shrugs, indicating the filter knobs on the mixer – which is each massively participating and, for anybody who’s adopted Cook dinner’s profession as Fatboy Slimdoesn’t come as a lot of a shock.
Within the late 90s celebrity DJ period, when a few of his friends had been wont to make eyebrow-raising claims – Paul Oakenfold famously justified his charges by noting that he didn’t merely play information, he additionally raised his palms, pointed at folks within the crowd and smiled, concluding: I’m an entertainer – Cook dinner commonly incurred their wrath by declining to take his job as critically: “A monkey may do what I do,” was one in every of his extra celebrated pronouncements. He doesn’t say something like that as we speak – “I feel,” he smiles, “I used to be in all probability being a bit over-modest once I stated that stuff, as a result of I might been a musician [in the Housemartins] and all my musician associates had been like, ‘however you are simply taking part in information’ “- however he does counsel to his college students that a very powerful factor to recollect in regards to the filter knobs on the mixer is to” make a face if you’re turning them ”. “That is mine,” he provides, leaning ahead and throwing his head again in obvious ecstasy.
Cook dinner is right here as a part of a charity-funded NHS scheme to arrange arts occasions for folks with extreme psychological well being issues, that additionally consists of singing workshops, samba lessons and sound therapeutic. “I actually needed to make music accessible for everybody,” says Natalie Rowlands, a senior occupational therapist who programmed the occasions, “to interrupt down the stigmas round psychological sickness, construct folks’s confidence and have actually high-class music workshops in very nice venues. “Lots of the folks right here have been musical up to now, however they’ve gone by a lot, they’re popping out of it once more, and this offers them an incredible alternative.”
“Natalie reached out to me, and it sounded fascinating,” nods Cook dinner. “It is type of life-affirming actually, it is good for me to see the individuals who’ve by no means touched a set of decks earlier than going between two tracks and pondering: ‘Whoo!’ Typically I can get a bit blase about what I do for a job, and seeing that harmless pleasure about the way in which you possibly can manipulate music: it is thrilling, it facilities you, it offers you a pleasant heat feeling. So it is joyful to see individuals who’ve been struggling going by that course of. “
It appears faintly superb that Cook dinner has time to get entangled. At 58 – and nearly 1 / 4 of a century after Fatboy Slim’s business peak as a recording artist – his DJ schedule sounds exhausting: Switzerland, Poland, Glastonbury, France, Berlin. Two nights on Brighton Seaside, celebrating the twentieth anniversary of his Large Seaside Boutique occasion, which legendarily attracted 250,000 folks and introduced town to a standstill: within the aftermath, there was a lot uproar that Cook dinner subsequently left the nation on the suggestion of his then-neighbor Paul McCartney. “It turned out that in case you put all of the people who find themselves going to little nightclubs in a single place, there was loads of us,” he says. “This one is proscribed to 7,500 folks, they’re in a pen on the seashore and there is no glass allowed onsite. It is a very boutique Large Seaside Boutique. ”
All of it comes as an unlimited reduction after what he calls an “fascinating” lockdown. “My entire job is to make giant quantities of individuals commune and do all the things that we weren’t presupposed to be doing. For the primary couple of weeks, I assumed: what do I do? ”
Like loads of DJs, he posted weekly mixes on-line, “which sort of saved my psychological well being on monitor, and I had the summer time off that I’d at all times promised myself. Then within the autumn, my son went off to school, and my daughter was again at school and the partitions began to shut in a bit. ”
Finally, he took a job serving within the cafe he owns in Hove. “We had a case of Covid, misplaced two-thirds of our employees and so it was both shut down, or all palms on deck. I labored there for seven months. Individuals would stroll alongside the seafront as a result of that is all they had been allowed to do and it was the place they obtained their espresso on the finish of the stroll, so it felt like we had been the final bastion of neighborhood and connection. It was fascinating, as a result of I’ve by no means carried out an sincere job for years. It saved me sane, actually. However being again has been joyous. ”
In Could 2021, he performed a mask-free present in Liverpool as a part of the victory Occasions Analysis Program, to see if it was viable to return to mass gatherings. “It was simply freaky. There was that factor of “if this cocks up, that may very well be all people stuffed for one more six months. Our job was to check first after which go all-in and simply lick one another’s faces and get correctly concerned and see what occurs, which we had been all ready to do. It felt bizarre for the primary two minutes after which… ”He grins. “It was the second of the clock placing 12 on New 12 months’s Eve, however all evening. Simply kissing strangers, hugging strangers since you may. DJing’s a two-way factor, it is a dialog, in case you DJ with out an viewers, for a livestream or no matter, it is only a middle-aged man taking part in information in his kitchen. You overlook the euphoria and the connection. Inside three minutes, it was’ why is my heartbeat so quick? Oh, I am excited, I am thrilled to be right here. I bear in mind this sense ‘. ”
Covid however, Cook dinner’s DJing profession simply appears to have steamrollered on at an arena-packing stage, unaffected by altering instances, tastes or certainly his resolution to, roughly, cease making music of his personal. He instructed the Guardian within the early 00s that if his information stopped promoting, he would “critically contemplate packing all of it in”, and proved true to his phrase after 2004’s Palookaville did not match the platinum success of earlier Fatboy Slim albums. His 2009 album beneath the identify Brighton Port Authority – which got here full with umpteen star company together with Iggy Pop and Dizzee Rascal and a fancy backstory involving the profession of a pretend band – attracted few takers. Since then, he is launched solely a scant handful of tracks, though one in every of them, 2013’s Eat Sleep Rave Repeat was a meme-provoking High 3 hit: variations on its title flow into on-line to this present day. “My enthusiasm for making information sort of waned a bit. However my enthusiasm for DJing has by no means waned. And since I get pleasure from it a lot, it is not simply enviornment excursions, I play in golf equipment all yr spherical. It is like freshers’ week – the brand new consumption are down the entrance on the golf equipment. There’s children going ‘My dad and mom performed your information once I was rising up,’ and since I am taking part in at their native membership down the street, they arrive and see me out of curiosity and… ”- he laughs -“ one other soul is mine . ”
Nonetheless there are particular markers of time’s passing, not least the truth that his youngsters have began DJing. His 10-year-old daughter Nelly carried out on a livestream for Camp Bestival throughout lockdown: there was a wonderful second when Cook dinner tried to regulate one thing on the mixer and was shooed away. His son Woody, in the meantime, is “correct full-time – he did 5 gigs final week. Acquired into DJing as a result of his flatmate was a DJ. Two months after he left house: ‘I will be a DJ now.’ All these years once I may have imparted my knowledge and he didn’t need to know! Final summer time, he performed in Ibiza at Mambo, and I used to be within the DJ sales space with him. Because the solar set, he performed On the River by Groove Armada and I burst into tears! I can bear in mind when he used to take a seat within the nook of the DJ sales space, couldn’t even see out excessive – it was the one secure place to place him, as a result of there was such mayhem occurring throughout. Me and Zoe [Ball, his ex-wife] by no means, ever pushed it on both of them. However he is grown to find it irresistible and select it fully independently. “
So, it seems, have at the very least among the contributors in as we speak’s workshop. I discuss briefly to Jess, a 34-year-old drummer, who was at music college till her psychological well being “hit me arduous”. She says she got here on the suggestion of her assist employee – “You possibly can simply vanish into nothingness in creativity, however it’s good to simply dangle on by some means and put your self on the market once more.” She discovered matching beats fairly straightforward and “genuinely liked it”: “It makes you need to pursue it extra and suppose, ‘I’m adequate, I do exist on this world, I am not simply previous it.'”
Again within the restaurant, the sound of drum’n ‘bass remains to be ringing out. One other of the contributors appears to have fully obtained the dangle of blending, together with the filter knobs. Cook dinner steps again and appears on. “Properly, there’s nothing extra I can train you now,” he grins and provides her a high-five.